Frequently Asked Questions
Is there an initial consultation fee to talk to you about my options?
No. I offer a free initial consultation to all prospective estate planning clients, regardless of the amount of your assets, to discuss what estate planning strategies would work best to meet the needs of you and your family. In addition, I will review your existing estate planning documents free of charge to determine if your documents are up to date or if any changes are required or otherwise appropriate.
What is an estate plan?
An estate plan is a formal set of instructions, A Revocable Living Trust, that lets people know what you would like to happen to your estate (personal property, investments, etc) in the event of your death or inability to make decisions (i.e., you are mentally incompetent, or in a coma). An estate plan can be simple or very detailed and can include what and how and by whom your estate can be distributed and used. However, your plan must be properly drafted and executed to comply with the law or it will not be legally binding and therefore will not accomplish want you intended.
What is the advantage of setting up an estate plan rather than just doing nothing?
Having a plan will help avoid confusion and uncertainty, in the event of your incapacitation or your death, by letting everyone know what you would like to have done with your property, investments and even yourself. Like many events in life, unexpected incapacity or death can make deciding what happens to you and your estate very complicated.
Do I have to be wealthy in order to establish an estate plan?
Absolutely not. You do not need considerable wealth to benefit from estate planning, and I offer reasonably priced options for those who are just starting out. I work with clients of all ages and economic situations. Whether you’re young or old, just had your first child, or have worked your entire life and are now living comfortably, an estate plan is essential to protect yourself and those who are close to you.
I also work with clients with moderate to significant assets or anyone else with complex estate planning issues. I advise my clients about estate and gift tax issues and assist them to properly structure their estate to minimize or eliminate the impact of such taxes and to ensure that their estate passes to their intended beneficiaries with as little of negative impact from taxes as possible.
There are many things to consider, regardless of your economic status, such as;
- Have you chosen a guardian to care for your minor children after your death?
- Have you provided instructions to your spouse, or loved ones, as to what kind of care you want to receive should you become incapacitated in any way?
- Have you provided instructions to your spouse, or loved ones, regarding your wishes should you become permanently incapacitated (such as a coma)?
These are all things that should be considered regardless of your material wealth. Whether it is a will-based estate plan or a trust-based estate plan, I can help you create the plan you need.
Why do most people spend the time and money to set up an estate plan?
People who want to manage what happens to them prior to an event that causes incapacity or a long term illness, and people who want to reduce the financial and emotional burden on their spouses, children, relatives and friends by directing what their final wishes are, set up an estate plan. By doing this, you can help those closest to you avoid legal costs and the difficult emotional process of making decisions concerning personal, intimate or valuable parts of your estate during your life, and after your death.
What is the difference between a will and a trust?
The primary purpose of a will is to give directions on how your property will be distributed upon your death. Property distributed by a will requires a Probate and is distributed directly to the beneficiaries at the end of the probate. At that point, the property belongs to the beneficiary and is subject to any debts or obligations the beneficiary may have. Wills can also contain instructions regarding the care of minor children, gifts to charity, and foundations. In order for a will to be legally valid, you must sign the will in the presence of two witnesses, you must be mentally competent, and not acting under duress or under the controlling influence of another, and the original will must be presented to initiate the Probate proceedings.
Trusts are legal entities that can replace or supplement wills, as well as help manage property during your life. Most people set up trusts in order to try to avoid probate. Unfortunately, most trusts fail to do this because they are not properly funded. However, it is also possible to accomplish many things with a trust that you cannot with a simple will. A trust can contain instructions regarding your wishes in the event of your disability and manage that privately rather than through court. A trust can manage the distribution of property for your beneficiaries and can minimize taxes and therefore, leave a larger inheritance to your family and loved ones. A trust can also be used to protect assets that you want your beneficiary to enjoy rather than those who may have claims against your beneficiaries. A trust also can reduce the beneficiary’s tax and allow the assets to grow over time. They can also be established for the benefit of charitable organizations.
What is probate?
Probate is the legal process of transferring property following a person’s death. If a person dies Testate (with a Will), or Intestate (without a Will), a probate is required to be opened and monitored by the appropriate local court. Once a probate is opened, it also becomes a matter of public information. Although probate customs and laws have changed over time, the purpose has remained much the same: to make sure that your intentions regarding the transfer of your property at the time of your death are followed. Your property is collected, inventoried and appraised, certain debts are paid from the estate and the property is distributed according to your will after debts and taxes are paid. However, most probates can be costly, time consuming, and complicated.
Why can’t I just find a form for will or trust on the Internet and use that instead of paying an attorney to do it for me?
You can. Unfortunately, those closest to you will pay the price because most form documents that you can find on the internet and elsewhere were designed for someone elseï¿½s situation, not yours. In fact, many documents you will find on the internet do not comply with the laws of many states and do not instruct you how to properly fund the trust. Read the fine print and disclaimers. Many times cutting corners or trying to do it yourself will end up costing more money and aggravation than you may realize. Receiving accurate legal advice from an experienced estate planning attorney, and properly setting up your estate plan, will avoid many unnecessary costs and complications down the road.
Why don’t most trusts actually accomplish the simple goal of avoiding probate?
Most trusts are not properly funded. This means that after they are set up, the clientï¿½s assets are not transferred into the trust, therefore the trust does not control the asset and the clientï¿½s family ends up going through Probate, the very thing that everyone was trying to avoid. This means that all the money that was spent on setting up the trust was wasted. An estate plan does not have to be expensive and will help avoid adding many unnecessary costs and complications later.
Why should I choose you to help me with my estate plan instead of someone else’s?
I offer some unique services that many others may not. I know that every situation is different and that there is no “one size fits all” estate planning solution. Your trust matter will be handled by me personally, so I take the time to meet with all of my clients and discuss their personal and family situation before I create a single document for them. I know how to provide many benefits and protections for my clients and their loved ones that many attorneys may overlook. I advise my clients about estate and gift tax issues and assist them to properly structure their estate to minimize or eliminate the impact of such taxes and to ensure that their estate passes to their intended beneficiaries with as little of negative impact from taxes as possible.
I also take on the responsibility of transferring your assets into your trust after it is formed so that it will actually accomplish all the things that you want it to. Finally, I provide an annual update and maintenance program to ensure that your plan stays up to date and current with any changes that occur in your life and in the law. This means that the money you spend on setting up your plan with William S. Graves, PC will be money well spent.